Ordinary Time is coming to an end and the Season of Advent is upon us. This Season, which marks the beginning of the Liturgical Year of the Church, commences on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, and will come to an end on Christmas Eve.
Pope Francis reminds us that “we have a beautiful promise that introduces us to the Season of Advent: ‘Your Lord is coming!’ Let us never forget this! God is near, and He is coming!”
Bishop Frank J. Dewane said Advent is “an invitation to pause in silence to recognize the signs of the coming of the presence of the Lord. It is a time of anticipation and of prayer.”
Advent has a two-fold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnity of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.
“A time of preparation, Advent describes Advent as relates to the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas,” Bishop Dewane said. “Let us resolve to help bring Him into the hearts of those we encounter throughout each day. Let us take advantage of what is new in the Advent Season as the Universal Church prepares for the birth of Christ. And let us grow in Faith during this portion of the Liturgical Year on our journey toward Salvation.”
The Advent Season in the Church is different from the Christmas Season. The First Sunday of Season is Dec. 3, and it runs through the vigil of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 24). The Christmas Season in the Church runs from First Vespers of the Nativity of the Lord up to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 8, 2024.
Because the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas fall on consecutive days, the faithful are reminded that there is an obligation to attend Mass for both days, and this must be satisfied by attendance at two separate Masses. A single Mass does not satisfy both obligations.
After the annual celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the Church has no more ancient custom than celebrating the memorial of the Nativity of the Lord and His first manifestations.
As earlier noted, the focus of the Advent Season is preparation. This is done through prayer, quiet reflection, weekday Mass attendance and even fasting, Bishop Dewane explained.
Taking time to quietly reflect and grow in Faith can be a challenge. Yet we are called to put distractions aside, even for a few minutes a day, which allows the love of God to fill one’s life with joy. Many Parishes in the Diocese offer extended times for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
A key symbol in Churches for this Season is the Advent Wreath. The light emanating from the candles on the Advent Wreath serve to break through the darkness, reminding us of the Light of Christ that we anticipate during this Holy Season. The liturgical color of Advent is a particular shade of purple, a color which is most often associated with royalty. This color is used to symbolize the anticipation of the birth of Christ, who is our King and Savior.
Each Sunday of Advent, an additional candle of the wreath is lit, with the rose-colored candle lit on the Third Sunday of Advent. Best known as Gaudete Sunday, this celebration derives its name from Scripture: “Gaudete in Domino semper” (“Rejoice in the Lord always”) and marks the mid-point in the Season. Bishop Dewane said that the change in color provides encouragement to rejoice during ancient Season that was originally marked by penance, as we continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas.
Aside from the Sundays of Advent, the Church also celebrates two important Marian feasts, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8 (observed as a Holy Day of Obligation), and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, Dec. 12. We are also called to seek the intercession of the saints as we make this journey towards Christmas, particularly those saints whose feasts we celebrate during Advent, such as St. Ambrose, St. Nicholas, St. Juan Diego, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross. They model for us the way to salvation and assist us in our own pilgrimage to heaven.